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Boxer Ramen


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#1 Neven

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Posted 04 October 2013 - 12:32 PM

Boxer Ramen

1201-1221 SW Washington St
PortlandOR

 

Micah Camden (of Yakuza, Little Big Burger, Blue Star Donuts, and Boxer Sushi) is opening a new ramen spot downtown, in the new Union Way alley across from the Ace hotel. I went to a preview lunch today.

 

Here's the menu. I'm not sure if it'll rotate much, but I appreciate its brevity:

 

2013-10-04-12.03.17.png

 

There are no topping options. Bowls come as they come. I'm fine with this.

 

They started us out with the ohitashi:

 

2013-10-04-12.04.14.png

 

Despite its "vinaigrette greens" appearance, this was an umami bomb. Chewy, nutty, salt, loads of sesame flavor. Great beer-food.

 

Next up, a sort of banh mi slider:

 

2013-10-04-12.12.21.png

 

The pork belly was tender and flavorful, the pickles crunchy and perfectly sweet/salty. I think the French-style baguette is a misstep, though; a soft Vietnamese one would work better. This was a bit tricky to chew through.

 

We also got a roasted butternut squash salad that's not on the menu, which was creamy and satisfying.

 

But this is what you want to see:

 

2013-10-04-12.25.45.png

 

Tonkotsu-shoyu ramen. Very thin, very tender noodles. Fantastic smoked pork. Chewy, sweet-and-salty mushrooms. One of the most perfect 6-minute eggs I've ever had. Broth that was both velvety-cloudy and well seasoned. (Some of the much-praised ramen I've had in LA—Daikokuya, Tsujita—had a great mouthfeel but felt way underseasoned to me. Maybe I'm just a salt fiend.)

 

The whole thing was huge, complex, beautifully balanced, and basically the best bowl of ramen I've had in Portland, after Wafu's opening-day bowls and possibly their tonkotsu. It's $12, which maybe sounds a bit high, but there are many far worse and far smaller $12 lunches downtown.

 

I'm not a *huge* noodle-soup fan; what I mean is, I mainly dig ramen for the broth and the toppings. I like the noodles if they're good, but I don't need a pound and a half of them. So, that said, I thought this bowl was a bit overnoodled. I don't expect most people will feel that's an issue, though.

 

Boxer's prices are a few dollars more than, say, Shigezo, but I'd say the ingredient quality justifies it. Their pork was way better than the standard char siu you get, and hey, I like that stuff too.

 

Micah says they're shooting for November 1st as the opening date. However, it all depends on when he's 100% happy with the food coming out of the kitchen. I bet they'll do just fine.



#2 Neven

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Posted 31 October 2013 - 10:02 AM

Micah invited us over for another test lunch before they launch today. He said all the recipes had been totally redone. He was right.

 

The ramen was nothing like the bowl above. Now, they offer two styles: tonkotsu or spicy miso. Both bowls focus on lots of broth, excellent noodles (he's now having them shipped from LA, he says), and few toppings: just pork and egg, basically. Both broths have a deep backbone of charred vegetables.

 

The tonkotsu was dark and covered with a layer of diced fat. The flavor was super strong and fatty, but without the grease you get from fully liquified fat.The spicy miso had a lot of dry, peppercorn heat, the kind that builds up in your throat. Both were extremely rich. I can see some complaining that they're too rich, in fact. While there's no shortage of gelatinous mouthfeel here, this is the flavor-oriented kind of ramen broth, not the milky, hazy style.

 

Prices have also dropped a bit. I can see this becoming a somewhat regular lunch option for me.



#3 Jill-O

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Posted 31 October 2013 - 12:01 PM

No, actually, I want to see the okonomiyaki tots!  ;o)


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#4 mymil

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Posted 31 October 2013 - 12:14 PM

I went for their pre-launch free ramen today at lunch and got the tonkotsu. I really like the rich, flavorful broth. I think it's now my favorite in Portland (better than Biwa, better than Mirakutei, better than Boke Bowl, probably even better than Wafu was). The chashu was very meaty and smoky, which I found a great complement to the rich, fatty broth. Very different from the often fatty, melty chashu elsewhere. My one, small gripe is that the chashu is a bit too sweet. It's not in a terribly convenient location for me, but I'm going to be back quite a lot, I expect.



#5 Neven

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Posted 31 October 2013 - 12:39 PM

No, actually, I want to see the okonomiyaki tots!  ;o)

 

Since it's the early days, and since he just added the tots, I didn't want to comment on them much (he might change that side of the menu frequently, who knows). Basically, they're regular tots topped with okonomiyaki sauce, katsuobushi, mayo, and seaweed. They're better than plain tots, but they're nothing like ononomiyaki, since there's no seafood, cabbage, or nagaimo yam. At $5, this is probably all they can do. I'm not a huge fan of tots, so I don't think I'd rush to get it. If you love tots, these are good tots.



#6 ExtraMSG

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Posted 31 October 2013 - 11:21 PM

I got to try both of those soups as well and found them excellent.  Normally I like a straight broth more than a spicy broth because often spicy broths are overly spicy without the flavor, but I thought it was really well-balanced.  All the constituent parts were quite good.  A minor cooking issue with some noodles, etc, but overall very good bowls.  They will get some people expecting a large pho-sized bowl, but it's got 30 seats so they can be ignored. Micah was talking about upping the salt levels, but I though they were perfect, which means they're slightly saltier than an average diner might want.  They're going to get some bitching for lack of gluten-free and vegetarian options and probably even price, but it won't matter.  I'm looking forward to trying the karaage.  I go to try the sauce they're making and liked it well and think it will match.


The greatest service chemistry has rendered to alimentary science, is the discovery of osmazome, or rather the determination of what it was. ~Brillat-Savarin

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Formerly, Kenny & Zuke's


#7 Neven

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Posted 01 November 2013 - 09:12 AM

They're going to get some bitching for lack of gluten-free and vegetarian options and probably even price, but it won't matter.

 

Yesterday, the board said the spicy miso ramen could be made vegetarian. I assume that means the broth is vegetarian, and they'd leave out the egg and the pork. (I also noticed cubes of tofu in the kitchen, and they're not used for anything else on the menu.) This might make that bowl vegan, in fact—I can't imagine there's any egg or dairy in the broth. Micah mentioned it was based on charred fennel, broccoli, a few more things.



#8 vj

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Posted 01 November 2013 - 09:19 AM

Oh man. Does he not have a website? I wanted to look at the menu to see what the price of a lunch ramen was, and after 5 pages of googling "boxer ramen portland", nada.  I guess if I have to ask, I can't afford it?



#9 Neven

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Posted 01 November 2013 - 09:25 AM

Oh man. Does he not have a website? I wanted to look at the menu to see what the price of a lunch ramen was, and after 5 pages of googling "boxer ramen portland", nada.  I guess if I have to ask, I can't afford it?

 

There's a Facebook account: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Boxer-Ramen/217607371733632 

and Twitter: https://twitter.com/boxerramen

(Yeah, I know.)

 

Both ramen bowls are currently $10 (which is competitive with pretty much any place I can think of). Sides are $4-5. Here's the menu:

 

boxermenu.png



#10 vj

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Posted 01 November 2013 - 12:53 PM

Thanks, Neven -- and good to meet you last night!



#11 Dan

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Posted 02 November 2013 - 07:34 PM

I just went there for dinner with my wife. Between the two of us, we had both ramens, the ohitashi, and the pickle salad. Of those items, the ohitashi was the one we enjoyed the most. Though it's nothing like traditional ohitashi, it had good flavors and textures (including walnuts for crunch) and was an enjoyable "NW Contemporary" interpretation of the Japanese recipe.

 

The pickle salad was hit and miss. It had a large number of ingredients, which is a nice idea: grapes, onions, shiitake and shimeji mushrooms, golden beets, cabbage, carrot, pear, daikon, radish, etc. However, it seemed that the various ingredients were pickled separately, and some were not pickled long enough or maybe at all. Kind of like making a really dry martini by just waving the vermouth over the glass, it seemed like some of the "pickles" had maybe just had some brine poured over them before being served. The items that were pickled were good, though. Personally I would have liked to see some more Japanese standards like rakkyo, takuwan and garlic cloves. (Come to think of it, what made this a "Japanese" pickle salad?)

 

The ramen...I've said this before and I know that many don't agree with me. But I don't think there's anywhere in town that even stacks up with the best you can get in, say, Vancouver BC, let alone comparing to ramen in Japan. Boxer did not change my mind. The ramen came to the table just a bit above warm, not piping hot like it should be served. There were no toppings at the table (sesame seeds, garlic paste, shichimi, etc.) for customization. The flavor of the tonkotsu-shoyu came across thin and somewhat burnt, like the bones and/or veggies that they use for the base got burned during roasting. The pork was nice -- well-smoked, and flavorful, and the noodles were good, but the broth was so unremarkable that the whole was pretty disappointing. I would definitely take Mirakutei or Biwa over Boxer Ramen.

 

And, not to be a cliche "it was terrible, and the portions were too small!", but the portions are less than generous. A $10 bowl of ramen in Japan would be a meal-sized portion, these bowls are not.

 

Starting to wonder if we could ever get a Tenkaippin franchise in Portland...



#12 polloelastico

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Posted 03 January 2014 - 12:04 PM

I have to agree with Dan above across the board. I had the shitake shoyu ramen. Shoyu is my preferred style, and feels to me an archetype that a joint dedicated to ramen should nail. In retrospect I knew I ordered wrong—I had assumed the shoyu style broth was accentuated with shitake but in this case the mushrooms took the place of what I was expecting to be a solid hunk of pork. No menma, fish cake, seaweed, and as Dan pointed out, no table condiments to properly spike the soup with. I had to ask for the runner for  shichimi togarashi, which was brought out in a ramekin and was about 900% more than I needed, which felt quite wasteful.

 

The mushrooms were somewhat pickled, with an astringent bitter/sourness that I felt detracted from any umami they should have brought to the picture. The noodles seemed wrong to me as well, and too thin for this style. The egg was great.

 

On the whole, it wasn't bad by any means, but it was an entirely underwhelming experience, and not a very good value.


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#13 crepeguy

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Posted 03 June 2014 - 09:39 AM

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#14 Quo Vadis

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Posted 03 June 2014 - 11:13 AM

Crepeguy: I'd highly recommend contacting the ownership. I strongly doubt that they'd consider the treatment you received remotely acceptable. Even if you don't feel it worth another try you'd be doing the business owner a big favor by calling it to their attention.


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#15 ExtraMSG

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Posted 03 June 2014 - 12:54 PM

Hmm, I haven't been in a few months, but the last visit I had was better than the early visits.  Only got the spicy and the tonkotsu.  Both were very good.  Took a friend with me who has tried all the ramens in Portland along with a lot in LA and the Bay Area with me.  He enjoyed it a lot as well.  (Personally, I prefer both the South Bay and L.A. to Vancouver, BC for ramen.)  I liked the noodles.  They reminded me a lot of one of my favorites in Los Angeles, Asa.  I haven't had, and normally wouldn't get by choice, a vegan ramen unless I had some illness requiring me to, and even then, I might pass.


The greatest service chemistry has rendered to alimentary science, is the discovery of osmazome, or rather the determination of what it was. ~Brillat-Savarin

Nick Zukin, Mi Mero Mole

Co-Author, Artisan Jewish Deli at Home

Formerly, Kenny & Zuke's


#16 crepeguy

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Posted 03 June 2014 - 03:01 PM

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#17 crepeguy

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Posted 04 June 2014 - 06:14 PM

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#18 CafeRacer

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Posted 04 June 2014 - 10:21 PM

I've been there at least a half dozen times and have never had anything but bright, cheerful service. The waitress probably assumed that because you were only having the mochi, and that being the final thing that most people eat, that you'd be ready to go after that. Why, when she dropped the mochi did you not just make a second request for water?

 

You can't say "the service now sucks" because of one interaction with one person. That's a really Yelpy thing to do.



#19 Angelhair

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Posted 05 June 2014 - 02:18 PM

You can't say "the service now sucks" because of one interaction with one person. That's a really Yelpy thing to do.

 

His experience isn't unique.  On my last visit there I was once again given cold soup and warm beer.  Server disappeared.  I was hungry so I ate bits of it.  Server finally reappears, see my nearly full bowl and asks how everything was.  I told her.  She said "what am I supposed to do about that now?"  I said, "I am sorry that you did not check on us to see if everything was OK."  She didn't get it.  She said, "Oh that's OK."  But she did take it off our bill.

 

I have had witless, absent and rude servers on every single occasion that I have dined there.  It doesn't really matter, it's a quick place and you are not there to have your tabled crumbed.  And I liked the food initially, the spicy miso in particular.  But you give me warm beer and cold soup two visits in a row and I am not coming back.

 

Shigezo is just down the street.



#20 CafeRacer

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Posted 05 June 2014 - 03:00 PM

You can't say "the service now sucks" because of one interaction with one person. That's a really Yelpy thing to do.

 

His experience isn't unique.  On my last visit there I was once again given cold soup and warm beer.  Server disappeared.  I was hungry so I ate bits of it.  Server finally reappears, see my nearly full bowl and asks how everything was.  I told her.  She said "what am I supposed to do about that now?"  I said, "I am sorry that you did not check on us to see if everything was OK."  She didn't get it.  She said, "Oh that's OK."  But she did take it off our bill.

 

I have had witless, absent and rude servers on every single occasion that I have dined there.  It doesn't really matter, it's a quick place and you are not there to have your tabled crumbed.  And I liked the food initially, the spicy miso in particular.  But you give me warm beer and cold soup two visits in a row and I am not coming back.

 

Shigezo is just down the street.

 

Must be your bad luck then. Last time I was there (and every other time), the servers have checked on my table after each round of dishes had arrived (greens/tots, soup, mochi) to see how things were. Promptly taking away empty dishes and bringing us waters.

 

But, It's all anecdotal. I'll keep going back though as I've been completely happy with everything I've eaten/drank/experienced there.

 

It doesn't change the fact that his singular experience with some missing water and a check delivered at what he deemed too early of a time makes describing the service there as sucking a little hyperbolic.